On Super Bowl Sunday, the Eagles won…and Jack died. This Is Us finally showed us the moment we’ve been waiting for since we found out that the beloved Pearson patriarch wasn’t alive in the present day, and it was just as gut-wrenching as promised.
As we saw in the last episode, Super Bowl Sunday ended with a raging fire in the Pearson house. This week picks up in the middle of that fire, with Jack waking up and realizing the danger his family is in. Alerting his kids, Jack manages to get across the hall to get Randall to the master bedroom, which has a better escape route through the window. Kate is farther away, but Jack still manages to be Best Dad Ever and protect his kids, using Kate’s mattress to shield them as they literally walk through fire. It’s harrowing, and it leaves you breathless, because you’re just waiting for the inevitable to come.
But it doesn’t. Not right away, at least. Jack gets his whole family out through the window, only for Kate to freak out about her dog — and we knew it was going to be the dog! — so he disappears into the house again. Surely, this is the end. The fire gets worse. The kids scream. Rebecca screams. But then Jack emerges holding the dog and a pillowcase filled with family memories, including Kate’s audition tape.
We finally understand why Kate blames herself for her dad’s death, even though she knows that Jack was going to protect her at all costs, no matter what it took. The EMTs and fire engines arrive, and Jack is told sternly to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Jack, ever the hero, claims he’s fine, but ends up going anyway, after Rebecca takes the kids to Miguel’s.
At the hospital, we expect the worst…but Jack is still okay. He and Rebecca share a sincere, sweet moment where he tells her she’s the only thing he needs. Sure, they lost the house, but they still have each other. And it’s just a house, as Rebecca said earlier. This kind of feels like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, where everything is fine until suddenly it’s not.
Sure enough, when Rebecca leaves the room to call Miguel to check on the kids, there’s a commotion behind her — a commotion that she misses as she buys a candy bar from the vending machine. When she turns around, a doctor is there to tell her that Jack suffered complications from the smoke inhalation and went into cardiac arrest. He’s dead.
Rebecca’s quiet denial as she bites into the candy bar is heartbreaking here. She refuses to believe he’s gone until she gets to his room. We don’t see his body — just the reflection of it in the mirror — but her anguished reaction tells us all we need to know. Even if you knew this was coming, there’s really no way to prepare, is there?
Rebecca is Rebecca, though, and she pulls herself together enough to fill out all the paperwork and get Jack’s stuff. By the time she gets to Miguel’s, she’s basically numb. She tells Miguel what happened, and when he freaks out, she tells him to take a walk if he can’t hold it together. Because she has to go in there and somehow tell her kids that their dad is dead, and this is going to be the worst day of their life.
Of course, we all know that Rebecca’s right — this will ruin her children’s lives forever. As we see in the present day (where we spend the rest of our hour), Kate still blames herself for her dad’s death 20 years later. She’s the reason why he went back into the fire, after all. Maybe if he hadn’t gone back in, he wouldn’t have been so sick. She punishes herself by watching that VHS tape that Jack saved of her audition, but she rewinds it so much that she almost breaks it, which almost breaks her. Luckily, Toby knows someone who can restore it and back it up to the ever-practical Cloud. Kate’s initially against it, because she feels like she’s giving up on her last memento, but she eventually comes to terms with it. In fact, she’s so touched that she makes a grand speech about how Toby saved her.
Rebecca says that every year since Jack’s death, he finds a way to make her laugh or send some sign to keep her happy. This year, Kevin is her sign.
Kevin was hit especially hard by his dad’s death, as he wasn’t even there. He goes to the tree where Jack’s ashes were scattered and talks about the mistakes he’s made, vowing to make Jack proud going forward. When he calls Rebecca to tell her and then ask if he’s even at the right tree, Rebecca laughs. It’s a start toward recovery, at least, but Kevin has a long way to go.
Meanwhile, Randall honors the anniversary of his dad’s death the only way he knows how: by celebrating life. After all, William taught him that, too. And the Super Bowl was Jack’s favorite day of the year, so why not be happy? He invites some of Tess’ friends over, but the celebration is marred by the passing of Mr. McGiggles, the lizard who ends up under Beth’s shoe. (Whoops.) Randall waxing poetic on the lizard in a makeshift funeral prompts him to be more maudlin than normal, and Tess is upset. But not about the lizard, as you’d expect. She feels like she’s been replaced and that Randall wants a new life. He found William, he found Deja — he even found a new job.
Randall reassures her that she’ll always be his number one, a nice parallel to Jack and Kate, and even Jack and Randall as kids, and then we get to the real twist of the hour. The phone rings and it looks like Jordan, the young boy we met a while ago, is going to be Randall and Beth’s next foster child. But the person on the phone is actually Deja, who has come back to the Pearsons — maybe for good? Jordan’s foster family, it turns out, is not Beth and Randall. But the social worker who brings Jordan to his new family is Tess, in a sweet flash-forward that sees Randall coming over for his weekly dinner.
(photos via NBC)